Is Love On 'The Bachelor' Real Or Is It All BS? 3 Relationship Experts Weigh In

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Tonight, Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay begins her journey to find love. And I'll be tuning in to watch it all unfold—along with 9.5 million other Bachelor fans.

After 15 years, 21 seasons (34 if you include The Bachelorette), and multiple spinoffs, The Bachelor franchise is still gaining momentum. Over the past few seasons, host Chris Harrison has even taken to referring to the collective population of the show's alums and the franchise's rabid fans (yours truly included) as "Bachelor Nation."

Why? Well, humans are hard-wired to root for love—to hope for a happily ever after. So, letting us watch "real" people fall in love appeals to the innocent in all of us. (And, of course, the high-stakes, high-booze nature of the game preys on our baser schadenfreude-ian inclinations.)

But how many of these televised happy endings are still happy months—or years—after the final rose, so to speak? Of the show's 34 total stars, 32 went home "in love and so happy."

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But here’s where it gets really interesting. Of the 32 couples launched in "the most dramatic season ever," eight of them are still together, and four have actually tied the knot. Not a stellar track record for lasting love, huh?

The reasons for this seem pretty obvious—there’s a lot of pressure on the contestants to end up with a "happily ever after," for one. The franchise wants to deliver on that promise. And the over-the-top romantic settings certainly facilitate the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. But I wanted to dig deeper, so I tapped real relationship experts for their insights into why these couples burn so brightly and fizzle out so quickly—almost inevitably.

Relationship therapist Margaret Paul had this to say:

But is it really all about the settings? Sixty-four people have left this show convinced they've found "the one," and seven out of eight of them have already been proven wrong. What gives?

I asked Rob Weiss, a digital-age intimacy and relationships expert, for his take:

(Sigh. We humans are so suggestible.)

And it turns out all those adventurous spelunking, rappelling, scare-the-pants-off-you dates aren’t just for entertainment value either—although they never fail to make me giggle. Love biologist Dawn Maslar (author of Men Chase, Women Choose) explained how these adrenaline-pumping activities trigger a physiological response that can make people feel something that’s not entirely real. Thanks, hormones!

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To succeed in long-term love, Maslar says, you need the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can go into overdrive in high-risk situations. So, when these couples go back into the real world (free of manufactured opportunities to bond intensely on a daily basis), they often experience total dopamine crashes, which makes them feel like they’ve fallen out of love.

And that "after the final rose" crash, Paul says, is the first time these couples are really seeing each other’s true colors:

But for those of us who want to hold out hope that our Bachelor addiction has some minuscule nugget of redeeming value, all three of these relationship experts pretty much agree:

If it encourages you to get out and start dating, it’s a good thing. Let it be a reminder that romance is out there, but remember that the Champagne and caviar setup of these shows isn’t the secret to real, lasting love.

I don't know about you, but that, to me, feels like a relief. It tells me that I don't need to hold out for a Richard Gere type to charge after me in a white limo. It means the cutie whose eyes you met over arugula at the co-op? He could absolutely be your Prince Charming. And the fact that your first date won't be a moonlit helicopter ride over the Andes is probably a good thing. It just means you’ll figure that out much, much sooner. Because everything else? It’s just window dressing.

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